May 8

Written by: Mark Blum
5/8/2012 9:09 AM 

Health reform passed an important milestone in the State of Maryland, last week, when Governor Martin O'Malley signed state legislation into law that establishes Maryland as a national leader in transforming of the way healthcare will be delivered to residents of the state.  Among the provisions of Maryland's new 2012 health exchange law is authorization for the State's Health Insurance Exchange Board "to use effective methods such as team-based patient-centered medical care" to reduce costs and improve quality of health care provided through the State exchange. 
In Maryland and across the nation, America’s Agenda has advocated transformation from the predominant, fragmented, fee-for-service approach to delivering care that fuels rapid inflation in medical and health insurance costs to a patient-centered, team-based care delivery strategy that has demonstrated its effectiveness in improving care quality and reducing growth in overall healthcare costs.
It is an irony that, while the ACA-created state health insurance exchanges offer an unprecedented opportunity to advance patient-centered, team-based transformation of US health care, they also pose a troubling threat to the future of employment-based health care in America. Under the Obama Administration’s current interpretation of rules for implementing the ACA-mandated exchanges, lower-wage employees of businesses that do not provide adequate health benefits are eligible for federal health insurance subsides in the form of “premium tax credits,” while comparable employees of businesses that offer high-quality coverage are denied access to the subsidies. The unequal tax treatment creates a significant advantage for employers who do not provide coverage. It creates incentives for responsible employers to drop employee health coverage that some have described as “nearly irresistible.” 
This is not a special interest issue: more than 60% of Americans currently receive health benefits through employment-based insurance plans. A pillar of America's employment-based health system is at risk. It's a national problem, and it cries for a federal solution.
But in Maryland, we salute the leadership of Governor Martin O’Malley, Lt. Governor Brown, and the General Assembly.  They have seized the opportunity to design a State exchange that can drive transformation to team-based care delivery, improve health, and reduce growth in health costs for all Marylanders.
We also want to acknowledge the impressive representation for Maryland health care consumers that is being provided by the Maryland Health Care for All! Coalition and its President Vincent DeMarco.  Since our two organizations formed a strategic partnership for the State last year, Maryland Health Care for All! has raised transformation to team-based delivery of care to the top of its healthcare affordability agenda. The highlight Maryland's new law gives to patient-centered, team-based care in its roadmap for the State exchange is a tribute to the respect State leaders have for the voice of Maryland Health Care for All! We'd like to share, below, Vicent DeMarco’s statement on last week’s signing of Maryland’s exchange law.
Major challenges still lie ahead to secure design of a “smart” health insurance exchange for Maryland working families and businesses that employ them. But the signing of Maryland’s 2012 health exchange law is a good occasion to take stock of the progress we are making.
Doug Dority, President
Mark Blum, Executive Director
         On behalf of the over 1200 faith, community, labor, business and health care organizations in the Maryland Health Care For All! Coalition, we commend Governor Martin O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly on today’s signing landmark legislation which will empower the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange Board to make health care more affordable for Marylanders. As proposed by the Governor and passed by the General Assembly, this legislation gives the Exchange Board the authority to use effective methods such as team based patient centered medical care, value based insurance design, and active purchasing which will reduce the cost and improve the quality of health care for Marylanders insured by the new Exchange. This legislation will also address cultural competency and health disparities so that every Marylander can get the health care they need. We look forward to working with the Governor, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, and Health Secretary and Exchange Board Chair Josh Sharfstein to make sure that the Board uses these new powers effectively to keep Maryland at the forefront of fully implementing the federal Affordable Care Act.




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